Historical sociolinguistics is a comparatively new area of research, investigating difficult questions about language varieties and choices in speech and writing. Jewish historical sociolinguistics is rich in unanswered questions: when does a language become 'Jewish'? What was the origin of Yiddish? How much Hebrew did the average Jew know over the centuries? How was Hebrew re-established as a vernacular and a dominant language? This book explores these and other questions, and shows the extent of scholarly disagreement over the answers. It shows the value of adding a sociolinguistic perspective to issues commonly ignored in standard histories. A vivid commentary on Jewish survival and Jewish speech communities that will be enjoyed by the general reader, and is essential reading for students and researchers interested in the study of Middle Eastern languages, Jewish studies, and sociolinguistics.
Bernard Spolsky is Professor Emeritus of the English Department at Bar-Ilan University and editor of The Cambridge Handbook of Language Policy.
Glossary; 1. Is Hebrew an endangered language?; 2. The emergence of Hebrew; 3. Hebrew-Aramaic bilingualism and competition; 4. Three languages in Hellenistic and Roman Palestine; 5. From statehood to diaspora; 6. The Arabian and African connections; 7. The spread of Islam; 8. The Jews of France; 9. The Jews of Spain and their languages; 10. Loter-Ashkenaz and the creation of Yiddish; 11. The Yavanic area - Greece and Italy; 12. Jews in Slavic lands; 13. Linguistic emancipation and assimilation in Europe; 14. Britain, its former colonies and the New World; 15. Islam and the Orient; 16. The return to Zion and Hebrew; Appendix: estimated current status of Jewish languages.